A CHURCH built just 18 years ago by priest and parishioners, without the help of the local diocese, is to be pulled down and replaced by three houses. Its closure has angered local Catholics who deny diocesan claims that the church is underused.
The Diocese of Arundel and Brighton decided to sell the Church of Christ Our Hope, Beare Green, Surrey, because it was claimed the close proximity of another parish church with a full time priest rendered it superfluous. A diocesan spokesman said that it was the policy of Bishop Cormac Murphy O'Connor to avoid too many Masses being said on Sunday at different venues. Such a scenario was impractical given the shortage of priests, he said.
Local Beare Green resident Rachel Blake contends that the church has an average congregation of 100, that there was sufficient feeling about its closure to have resulted in a petition signed by 150 people, and that the church's survival is vital to cope with the pastoral needs of Catholics in a rapidly expanding area.
Local parish priest at nearby St Joseph's, Dorking, Fr Patrick Chick, says that when the closure was first announced, there was a very little opposition. For her part Rachel Blake contends that there is resentment against the closure, especially among residents of nearby Brockham who helped pay for the building.
"I know that Christ Our Hope is only four miles from the nearest parish church, but it has in the past catered for the scattered group of people living in six villages nearby.